College Basketball Picks: Auburn at Kentucky 2/29/20

by | Feb 29, 2020 | cbb

Auburn Tigers (24-4 SU, 13-15 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (23-5 SU, 15-13 ATS)
When: Saturday, February 29, 3:45 p.m.
Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
TV: CBS

Point Spread: AUB +6.5/UK -6.5 (SportsBetting.ag)
Total: O/U 141

Last Time Out:

Auburn bested Mississippi 67-58; Kentucky defeated Texas A&M 69-60.

Scouting the Tigers:

This was supposed to be easy for Auburn. All the Tigers had to do to get themselves in the driver’s seat to win the SEC was hold serve at home and pick up wins at Georgia and Missouri, two of the three worst teams in the SEC. Well, Auburn screwed up the second part of that equation and lost to both the Bulldogs and the Columbia Tigers, and now they’ll need to run the table and hope Kentucky collapses even to have a shot at SEC honors.

Part of that was because the Tigers had to play those two road games without freshman Isaac Okoro, who missed both games with an injury and returned in the win over Mississippi. But even with Okoro, Auburn made things a lot closer than they should have been in a win over Arkansas. The Tigers have struggled away from home, as they are just 3-4 on the road in the SEC. While that doesn’t sound like a struggle, note that two of those wins were by a combined four points over Arkansas and Mississippi. Additionally, the Tigers got slammed at both Alabama and Florida. In short, this is not a good road team.

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Scouting the Wildcats:

Kentucky will frustrate you. Kentucky will worry you. Kentucky will make you wonder why you didn’t wait for the live number to move until you finally jumped on them. And then after all of that, Kentucky will probably make you money. Since the loss at Auburn to kick off February, the Wildcats are 6-1 ATS and have often taken things right to the wire. Against Florida, the line was 4.5, and they covered by 6. Against Vanderbilt, it was 10.5; they covered by 14. Against Texas A&M, the line was 6, and the cover was 9. Tennessee was the only win in this stretch where Kentucky was the favorite, and bettors didn’t have to hold their breath in the final two minutes.

And yet, the Wildcats keep finding ways to win. Kentucky has now won seven in a row and has all but locked up the SEC title at this point. What’s really made Kentucky take off is the play of Immanuel Quickley, who has scored 77 points in his past three games. He’s the fifth Wildcat to score at least 25 points in a game this season, and that’s no accident. John Calipari has said that he wants multiple scoring options available so that he can prevent another team from shutting down one top threat. So far, it’s worked, as Kentucky has rolled through the SEC to a perfect home record so far.

X-Factor:

Championship pressure. Kentucky has been here many times before as a program, but many of its players haven’t been here before because the Wildcats are a freshman-dominated team as always. The pressure that comes with playing for a championship is a different beast, and there’s no guarantee that Kentucky will be able to keep its wits as the pressure increases against a good team. Auburn has to try to use the pressure of the situation to maximize the pressure on Kentucky because the Tigers have been here before as last year’s champions.

Auburn will Cover if:

The Tigers can win the battle on the glass. Auburn has been outstanding at rebounding this year, and the Tigers have to win the rebounding battle the way that they did in the first meeting between these teams. Auburn ended up grabbing 42 rebounds to Kentucky’s 28, and it was critical in allowing the Tigers to overcome their 26 percent shooting from behind the arc. Against Kentucky’s defense, you need to create as many opportunities as possible, which Auburn did well enough to win comfortably.

Kentucky will Cover if:

The Wildcats can play great defense. Kentucky’s defense has been excellent at holding teams in the 60s, which isn’t Auburn’s game at all. When Auburn gets held to less than 70, the Tigers are just 2-3 this season. Kentucky meanwhile has held five of its past six opponents to less than 70, with the lone exception being LSU in Baton Rouge. Something has to give, and Kentucky needs to make sure it isn’t the defense.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:

Auburn has been rather weak on the road, to put it mildly, and it’s really made me skittish about the idea of picking the Tigers in a game like this. This spread is a little larger than I’m usually comfortable with taking with Kentucky. Still, the fact remains that Auburn hasn’t beaten a good team on the road outside of Mississippi State, and that was two months ago and before the Bulldogs really established themselves.